Why is Baroness Hale a “woman judge”?

The UK Supreme Court


In a recent article by the Daily Mail the headline reads:

“Shout at your spouse and risk losing your home: It’s just the same as domestic violence, warns woman judge

There are three things wrong with this headline.

Firstly, its not really an accurate summary of the Supreme Court’s decision and if you’re interested why there’s a good post on it here.

Secondly, the decision came from the Supreme Court, rather than a single “woman judge” as suggested by the Mail.

And thirdly, it was completely unnecessary to highlight Lady Hale’s gender as her single most important defining feature.

And yet it is so often the case that when a woman judge makes a decision her gender is almost inevitably mentioned, as though of crucial importance.  By contrast a male judge is only ever a judge.

By qualifying a judge as “woman”, her authority is inevitably undermined and her judgments questioned.

When the Mail challenged Baroness Hale’s decision by calling her a “woman judge”, they decided not to challenge her legal judgment purely on the merits of her argument, but instead chose to make her gender part of the criticism.

And this is not an isolated example of this sort of gratuitous labelling. If you search “woman judge” in the Daily Mail search the first three results are

  • “How a top woman judge dragged her neighbour to court over a pair of Dobermans and landed him with a £20, 000 bill”
  • “No mercy: Woman judge jails Czech sham wedding bride who is pregnant with third child”
  • “‘It’s a f****** travesty!’ Woman judge’s foul-mouthed outburst after being convicted of failing to control her Alsation.”

And the Mail is by no means alone in using these sorts of unnecessary prefixes on a regular basis.  But everytime it happens, the female judge is labelled as different.

This is surely dangerous in a society where difference in our judges is not acceptable.


About Rachel Conner

Rachel Conner is currently a postgraduate newspaper journalism student at Cardiff University. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Durham with an LLB. View all posts by Rachel Conner

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